Thursday, November 9, 2017

Safest cities for cycling

A thread popped up on Slowtwitch this week that piqued my interest, because the "original poster" (OP) asked the question: "What city is the safest for cycling year round?" As you can imagine, every response has been different. Everyone that enjoys the cycling where they live (and those that hate it) has responded suggesting that, in fact, THEIR city is the safest. It's a fairly self-selected "poll," as the only people that will respond are the people that likely feel strongly about their answer. Plus, most people simply "lurk" on ST anyway and don't ever post, so the ''poll'' is extremely biased.

Anyway, it got me to thinking: what makes a city safe for cyclists?

Well, it really begins and ends with the city's civic planning system and infrastructure. Certain cities will likely never be "safe" for cyclists (all cyclists, whether they be recreational, commuters, messengers, hobbyists, just a bit of fitness, etc) because the city cannot change the existing patterns. Charlotte kind of feels like this. I cannot imagine Charlotte being a safe place to ride a bicycle outdoors. There is no room to change the dynamic. There are only so many ways "in "and "out" of places in the city that are just absolutely littered with cars. New Orleans is like this as well, but more so because the streets are so rough and relatively narrow and the city itself is so "hemmed in" by the surrounding landscape (a big ass river and a big ass lake) that the number of cycling routes to even get outside the city is basically...1.

Anyway, I could make a strong case for Tucson being one of the most bicycle friendly towns in the US (that I have been to and ridden my bike in <--- a="" drastically="" for="" great="" i="" nbsp="" reduces="" s="" sample="" size="" starters="" the="" there="" this="">government website
 (hmm, oxymoron anybody?) dedicated to the "Bicycle and Pedestrian Program." I'm actually just kind of diving into this website now but man, it is extensive. You can even get a list of current projects and see what is going on as it happens and in what stage of development are individual projects. But the over-arching goal seems to be connectivity and ease of use.

Cool bridges everywhere. You can look down on cars, literally AND figuratively

Signage is solid, but having google maps handy is equally solid

If I want to, I can ride basically anywhere in Tucson and follow protected bike routes. The protection can vary from "The Loop" (fully pedestrian/bike pathways) to "Bike Boulevards" ("residential streets designed to prioritize bicycle and enhance conditions for walking") to simple bike lanes on regular streets. The key point is that I can feel safe riding all 3 of those types of routes. There are definitely sections with more vehicular traffic than others, but I can design a route to minimize those parts and favor the safer parts.

Safety first

See? Cool bridges everywhere
Not only ALL THAT, but the routes for cyclists and triathletes outside of the confines of the city proper are, for the most part, very good. Lots of choices in all directions.

At the end of the day, we - as cyclists - can only control so many variables. I can have bright clothing, bright lights (day or night), a cognizance of the rules, etc, but it really all depends on the drivers and other cyclists. Unless we are truly protected via infrastructure and's an inherently risky activity! So, ride on! (safely)